Lactate Threshold Run

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What is a threshold run?

In spite of the fact that not every phrase that may be included in a running dictionary is necessarily one you want or need to get acquainted with, threshold training is one of the most crucial training terminologies you’ll want to grasp and apply to your routine.

One of the most essential kinds of running workouts, known as a threshold run, is meant to help you run faster while also improving your overall level of physical fitness. No matter where you are in your quest toward better health and fitness, you should make them a consistent component of your workout routine.

However, a significant number of runners do not clearly understand what threshold runs are, what the advantages of doing them are, or how to do threshold training in general. This results in inefficient runs or an unwillingness to do these sorts of exercises at all, which ultimately leads to a loss of fitness.

To put it another way, a threshold run is when you run at a speed that is either at or slightly below your lactate threshold. This is the point at which your body is still able to eliminate lactate from its system, preventing you from reaching total fatigue.

Threshold Run
Source: / Savvas Stavrinos

How to find your lactate threshold

The “lead-like,” scorching, heavy sensation that you get in your legs in the final mile of a hard 5k or in the last lap of an all-out mile used to be thought to be a consequence of “lactic acid” accumulation in the legs. When your degree of exertion and running speed reach a particular point, you will suddenly notice that you get much more out of breath.

At this stage, which is known as the ventilatory threshold, your body will no actually be eligible to get an adequate amount of oxygen from the air that you inhale in. It is closely connected to another point referred to as the lactate threshold.

The lactate threshold is regarded to be the tipping point at which your body must start creating energy by anaerobic means (with no oxygen) via the metabolic route referred to as glycolysis in place of aerobic metabolism. This occurs when lactate levels reach a certain level.

Glycolysis results in the production of an end product known as lactate. Although lactate is not responsible for the heaviness and burning sensation, its production is linked to the generation of hydrogen ions and other waste products responsible for discomfort and fatigue in the muscles.

At the lactate threshold, your body abruptly transitions from being able to remove lactate and harmful metabolic waste products at the same rate they are being created to being swamped with waste as a result of its increasing dependence on creating energy without adequate oxygen. This is because at the lactate limit, your body abruptly shifts from its ability to eliminate the lactate and harmful waste products at the exact rate they are being generated.

How should you train your running threshold?

Any exercise in which you continue to move at or near your threshold pace for a certain amount of time counts as threshold training. One continuous session at threshold training speed or many brief intervals with slow recovery rest periods may make up a threshold run. However, given that the threshold pace does not need a full-on effort, recovery times should be kept to a minimum. The following are some examples of threshold exercises:

  • First, run for 1–2 miles to warm up, then go for 3–8 miles at your threshold pace, and finish with 1 mile at a slower speed.
  • First, run one to two miles as a warmup, then do three to six repetitions of one mile at your threshold run pace with one minute of easy running in between, and finish with one mile of cooldown running.
  • Start with a warmup of one to two miles, then run for ten to fifteen minutes at your threshold run pace three times with one minute of recovery between intervals, and finish with one mile of cooldown running.
  •  Warm up by running one to two miles, then complete two sets of twenty minutes at a speed that is 10k pace or slightly faster than your threshold run pace, with 90 seconds of recovery between each set, and finish with one mile of cool down running.
  • Maintain a threshold pace for the last two to four miles of a lengthy run.
Threshold Runner
Source: / Ketut Subiyanto

The benefits of threshold runs

One of the advantages of the lactate threshold is that studies have shown that it may be modified via training. Threshold runs may increase the lactate threshold, allowing you to sustain a higher pace while still depending on aerobic metabolism and without collecting glycolysis byproducts. This signals that you are able to run for longer and at a quicker pace without experiencing exhaustion.  Furthermore, running at or near your threshold improves your aerobic fitness and increases your VO2 max. They teach the body to be more metabolically efficient and may increase the body’s capacity to use fat for energy at a quicker rate.

How often to do threshold runs

Running at a speed that exceeds your lactate threshold puts considerable stress on the body; thus, you should limit yourself to two threshold runs each week. Eighty percent of your runs should be “easy,” and just 20 percent should be “challenging” or at a threshold level if you are mainly training for endurance (marathon or ultra-marathon events). These are your “quality” workouts and will help you improve your fitness, while the easy runs are designed to build your aerobic basis and aid recuperation.

You will not be able to recuperate effectively and will be in danger of burnout or overtraining, which may result in mental health issues, physical injuries, and diseases. One of the reasons beginning runners often quit is that most of their runs will take them past their lactate threshold since running instead of walking will cause their heart rate to increase. They will then find it very difficult to continue and will want to leave. To keep a constant heart rate, a mix of jogging and walking is optimal in this situation.

It is crucial not to let ego interfere with your training. If a 10-minute mile is your threshold, you should run and train primarily at 11 or 12-minute miles. Even if this appears sluggish, it is in your best interest. If you consistently push yourself to run a mile in 9 or 8 minutes because that is what most people do, you will get hurt and emotionally exhausted.

How long should you run at the threshold?

The optimal length for a steady threshold run is twenty minutes; however, the amount of time you spend running may be adjusted to some degree in order to account for the terrain. For instance, if your T-pace is 6:00 per mile and you select a route that is three miles long, you will complete your tempo run in 18 minutes. Alternatively, you may go for four miles in order to complete your tempo run in 24 minutes. You could run for precisely 20 minutes, using the mile markers as a guide to determine the appropriate speed, and then stop anywhere between three and one-quarter miles and three and one-half miles. It’s a good idea to conduct your tempo runs on the track (or even on a treadmill every once in a while) since you’ll have more control over the pace that way. It is common practice for coaches and athletes to do lengthier tempo runs at a speed that is slower than their real threshold pace. This strategy may provide fruitful outcomes. Running for a longer period of time at this intensity develops a good sense of being able to maintain a strong pace for an extended period of time. Additionally, as was mentioned earlier, the demand can sometimes be just as mentally taxing as running for a shorter period of time at a true threshold pace. In addition, some runners may progressively increase the difficulty of a lengthier “tempo” run until they reach their threshold pace, at which point they will continue to run at that speed.


Threshold training enhances your capacity to create energy without lactate buildup in the muscles. In other words, threshold runs prepare the body for quicker speeds without releasing the metabolic byproducts that cause muscles to feel on fire.

Your threshold run pace is between your 10k and 15k pace, or around the speed you can maintain for one hour. Threshold exercises include prolonged sessions at a threshold speed. Calculate your threshold pace and include threshold-specific training into your running regimen, and you’ll rapidly see the results!

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